01 August 2010

Sketch of the Life of the Late Joseph Bond, Part I

[In 1872, thirteen years after the death of Joseph Bond, the following sketch was written as a "Letter to the Editor" to the Macon Weekly Telegraph by a friend of Mr. Bond. It is a very long article filled with much fluff I will break up into parts. It is an interesting read however, for a few reasons. The death of Mr. Bond was not natural, he was killed by an overseer from a neighboring plantation. This article tells of this incident while also speaking to the character of Mr. Bond and his relationship with his slaves. To be perfectly honest, I find some of the words regarding this relationship laughable, if not offensive. Nonetheless, it does give us an account of this period in Southern U.S. history.]

Macon Weekly Telegraph
24 September 1872

Sketch of the Life of the Late Joseph Bond [Part I]

Editors Telegraph and Messenger: In Rose Hill Cemetery, upon a lofty eminence overlooking the placid waters of the Ocmulgee, surrounded by monarchs of the forest and creeping vines, which lend their shade in summer and cast their mournful shadows in winter, athwart the resting place of the dead, a massive monument rears its magnificent proportions, inscribed in large letters with the name of "BOND;" also, with the full name and date of birth and death of the subject of this notice. To the ordinary passer-by this monument receives only a thought. To those ignorant of the history of Joseph Bond, it teaches no lesson and produces no impression. To many it doubtless calls to mind the words of Byron:

"The sculptor's art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below;
When all is done upon the tomb -- is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been."

Not true of him of whom I now speak. The writer of this knew him well; saw him often, conversed with him often, and perhaps knew him and understood him as well or better, than any one now living, outside of his own immediate family. His many noble qualities of mind and heart, which were ever so manifest to those who were intimate with him, were hidden from the outside world. After the lapse of over thirteen years, one who did so know him, one who did truly appreciate him; one who remembers with gratitude his many acts of kindness, would speak of him in terms of just commendation, and lay upon that tomb, which rises so solemn and so grand, so magnificent and yet so lonely over his last remains, this tribute as a grateful offering. His family, which he loved so much, and which he provided for so magnificently, is now scattered far and wide. Time has made its mark and wrought its changes upon their fortunes, as well as upon the great mass of Southern people. They are now, comparatively speaking, poor and friendless, and some of them, strangers in a strange land, far from the ancestral home and the broad acres, over which he exercised control. It may, and doubtless will be, gratifying to them to hear from one who knew him, something of his character as a man of business, and as a successful one in his sphere, as a citizen, a master and friend.

Joseph Bond was a slaveholder. He counted his slaves by the hundred. Yet, while he was one, and a rigid disciplinarian, he was also a kind master. No man understood the responsibilities growing out of the relation of master and slave, better than he did. No man was more true to duty in that respect, than he was. His laws for their government were eminently just and proper. They were framed by him, after he had, by practical experience, acquired a thorough knowledge of the character of the negro slave and after he understood the wants and necessities of each, growing out of the relation of master and slave.

His rules were all framed with a view,
First -- To promote the best good of the slave, and,
Second -- To insure the greatest pecuniary benefit to the master.

It was the pride of his servants to say, "I belong to Joe Bond." They were always well clad, well fed, and well cared for in health and in sickness. They were protected by him in the enjoyment of every right which belonged to them, in that peculiar relation; and, in return for that care and protection, he demanded of them implicit obedience and faithful service, which, as a general thing, they rendered willingly and cheerfully, because they loved as well as feared him. They knew his laws were as immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians; that what he ordered was just and right, and had to be obeyed. So just were his rules for their guidance, and so uniform and perfect was his entire system, that there was during the later years of his life, scarcely a jar in his whole machinery of government. There was no perceptible friction, but on the contrary, all worked smoothly and profitably to himself, and to the promotion of the best interests of the slaves.

Not like some masters, he did not commit his negroes to the charge of ignorant and oftimes, brutal overseers, and leave them to take care of themselves as best they could; but he exacted the same rigid accountability from his overseers or managers that he did from the slaves. His ear was ever open to their just complaints, and they knew better than to go to him with a tale that was untrue. In all difficulties between the slave and the overseer, he dealt out even-handed justice according to the facts. If the negro was right and the overseer in the wrong, the negro was protected and the wrong repaired, or the overseer discharged. Of the latter class, he did not knowingly employ any but men of superior acquirements. He paid good wages to a competent man, and if after a trial he suited him, he might count upon a home and employment as long as he wished. If he did not suit he was discharged, and told to seek employment elsewhere. His success in planting was great, perhaps greater than any other planter in the whole South, and the reason was, that he thoroughly understood the business in all its details -- controlled and directed everything. His knowledge was not theoretical only, but practical. He held no diplomas as a graduate of any college. After completing his academic course, his father, who was a man of wealth, wanted him to go through college and study a profession, but he had already chosen his occupation in life, and had determined to be a planter. His father gave him his choice, either to enter college or go to one of his plantations and become and overseer. He joyfully accepted the latter position, and by doing so he acquired that practical knowledge which was so useful and so profitable to him in after life.

While he was not a scholar in the true acceptation of the term, he knew much more than many who held the sheep-skin evidence of having gone through the regular curriculum of learning at our colleges and universities, because what he knew, he knew well. He had a contempt for superficial knowledge. He mastered every subject he studied. In the current literature of the day, in politics and religion he was well posted, and kept up with the advancement of the age in all things necessary to a thorough understanding of the position of affairs. He was no pretender. If he did not understand a subject which was being discussed, he was a silent listener. If he did understand it he would enter into the discussion with zeal, and in such cases never failed to throw light upon it.

He was not a professor of religion, but there was no one who had a greater respect or veneration for true than he had. He owned some three or four preachers of the Gospel, whom he always encouraged in their work. He did all he could to promote religious intelligence among his slaves, and was a liberal contributor to the itinerant ministry of the Methodist Episcpoal Church, who came around statedly to preach to the slaves on his different plantations. In faith he was a Presbyterian. His preference was for that Church. He understood its system of doctrines, and attended statedly, when at home, the ministrations of the Gospel in that Church, and, had his life been prolonged a few years, there is no doubt but that he would have united with it. Though not a member, he was liberal in his contribution for the support of the Church, and, without knowing it to be a fact, I have no doubt but that the Church in Macon has reason to remember his munificence.

In politics he was a Whig. Well do I remember how cordially he supported Clay and Frelinguhysen in 1844. Though no politician, and no office-seeker, he studied and understood the theory of our Government, and cast his vote and influence on the side which he thought would best promote the good of the whole country. He was eminently conservative in his political opinions. In 1850, when there was so much excitement in Georgia on account of the compromise measures, growing out of the admission of California into the Union, he sided with the majority of his party in this State, and lent the aid of his influence and of his purse in favor of acquiescence in those measures. He deprecated the agitation of the slavery question in Congress and out of Congress. He felt that it was a question that should be left exclusively to the States in which it existed. His idea was that slavery should be quiescent, not aggressive; that it would go wherever it could be made profitable, and that it was the veriest nonsense to contend for the right -- the bare right -- to carry the institution where reason and common sense told us it would never go. Hence, he was not in sympathy with the Kansas Nebraska movement. He thought the repeal of the Missouri compromise an ill-timed, useless and disastrous measure. Time and experiance have demonstrated that he was right.

~ Go to Part II


  1. Hello - just wanted to thank you for the wonderful job you do on this blog - I posted a link to this series on my Facebook community page "Classic Architecture of Macon Georgia" - wanted to give you a heads up on that - again thanks for all your hard work - Mike McGill


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